Jacob Wetterling 'person of interest' enters not guilty plea

Danny Heinrich, a person of interest in Jacob Wetterling’s disappearance, returned to federal court Monday in Minneapolis. Heinrich entered a not guilty plea to more than two-dozen child pornography charges. He spoke only his name, birthdate and to waive the reading of the indictment. Heinrich's next court date is April 27 for a pre-trial hearing, with a trial date set for July 11.

Since investigators announced Heinrich was a person of interest last October, lawyers on both sides have been dealing with a case they call “unusual and complex.” In a joint filing asking for more time, attorneys say the prosecutors have provided the defense with documents “in the excess of 1,000 pages,” and point out that the case is tied to the “multi-year investigation into other offenses that occurred decades ago.”

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In response to the concerns about the case’s size, the judge granted a motion to declare the case as “complex,” allowing for additional time under the Speedy Trial Act.

“It’s pretty typical, because when you have a complex case with a voluminous amount of information…you’re going to need time to prepare,” Joe Tamburino, a criminal defense attorney at Caplan & Tamburino Law, told Fox 9. “What’s going to be interesting is what else transpires until July. Will there be any information in the Wetterling case? That’s what everyone is interested in, bottom line. The child pornography case is obviously very serious, but there are many child pornography cases out there. What makes this so interesting is the Wetterling connection."

The other question is, if Heinrich has any information about Wetterling, whether he has an incentive to divulge the knowledge. Tamburino says he does not.

“Zero incentive. Because the federal government really can’t make a deal with him saying look, we’ll give you five years in prison if you give us Wetterling information. Because it would be just awful public policy,” Tamburino told Fox 9. “Think about it: it means someone could allegedly commit a murder 20 years ago, and if they get arrested for some serious crime in the future, they could say, gee, I have this trump card. I could tell you about this information so I could have a lesser sentence or a get out of jail free. It’s just not going to happen.”

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